Savon de Marseille

Savon de Marseille – Is Yours The Real Thing?

Savon de Marseille - Is Yours The Real Thing?

How do we distinguish right from wrong?

Believe it or not, the term “Savon de Marseille” is not a protected designation. It is more and more overused, despite both ancient and recent texts defining its characteristics. This makes it very difficult for consumers to be sure they are buying a genuine soap. So tell me, if you have Savon de Marseille, is yours the real thing?

The real soap has for centuries been made in Marseille and its region, using a traditional process, in a cauldron, exclusively using only vegetable oils. It was free from fragrance, dye, and preservative. Today … a soap called “Savon de Marseille” is manufactured mostly outside of the Provence region and not even in France. It is made up mainly of animal fats, and chemical additives (preservatives, colourings and fragrances containing allergens). The “Union of Professionals of Marseille Soap” under 1901 law, founded an association in September 2011, aiming to defend, promote and publicise the authentic Provence soap


A Collective Mark

It was essential to create a distinctive sign, as shown above, to ensure the consumers that the product bearing it is a true Savon de Marseille, the criteria defined in the specifications adopted by the association (see next section).

The collective mark is represented by a logo recalling the buffers used by the soap of Marseille region, around a cube, a sign of recognition of the Savon de Marseille form.

The real soap is defined by three essential criteria:

  • The composition
  • Its manufacturing process
  • The geographical originOnly manufacturers respecting this charter may apply the collective mark.


Savon de Marseille Composition

Savon de Marseille is a hard soap, which can take different sizes and shapes: cube, cuboid, oval, or chips and flakes.

It should be:

  • made exclusively from vegetable oils
  • unscented
  • without dye
  • without additives
  • without processing aid



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Manufacturing Process

Authentic soap is made in a cauldron, according to a specific method of saponification called “The Marseille process” and includes the following five stages:


Step 1: Pasting, or chemical reaction of saponification

The vegetable oils are heated in a large pot. Reacting to sodium hydroxide and heat, they gradually transformed into soap.

Step 2: The Release

Being insoluble in salt water, this stage adds sea salt to drive the excess lye from the bottom of the pot. The soap remains on top.

Step 3: Cooking

This characterises saponification and allows for the complete transformation of vegetable oils into soap.

Step 4: Washing

The soap paste is refined by washing, which results in the removal of glycerol, impurities and non-saponified fatty acids.

Step 5: Liquidation

A final wash with clean water helps the soap to its final state: mild and clean soap which gave Savon de Marseille it’s well-deserved reputation.


This whole process takes about seven to ten days. It’s a great concern to the people here in France, that they are losing control over something that is held dear to their hearts, the real Savon de Marseille made in the traditional way. That concern will hopefully be lessened in time as this new mark, er… makes its mark.

I hope you have learned something new in this article and that you are encouraged to give the real Savon de Marseille a try. If you have any comments on this soap, please leave them below.

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